“ Brand: ELC / Type: Childrens Role Play „
As I knew he was going to be getting a shopping trolley for Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to buy twenty month old Freddy some play food to go with it. After a little research I decided on the ELC M&S Play Food Cans seemed to fit the bill perfectly, not being made of fragile cardboard or only being suitable for children over the age of three. The eighteen M&S Play Food cans come supplied in a cardboard box (for easy storage) for just £6.
==Through the magic doors - A Parent's View==
Each of the cans looks just like a miniature replica of the real thing, the attention to detail is fantastic, there are even little ring pulls on the tops. There are also a good selection of different cans in the set, with there being both full and half size cans. There are cans of soup, beans, tuna and even cat and dog food. Each can has a paper label and although the printing is small, it's clear enough for an adult to read the wording. Not being one to shop in M&S I'm not 100% positive that the labels are accurate depictions of the real thing, but they look convincing enough for me. Apart from the wording it's possible to work out what each can is supposed to represent from the pictures on the label and there are even barcodes and nutritional information.
As to size the cans are definitely a lot smaller than the real thing, but still not small enough to cause a choking hazard. The cans are all perfectly to scale, with the largest tins standing about 5.5cm high and the smallest 2.5cm, which means they are the perfect size for little hands. The plastic they are made from is very tough and much thicker than cheaper versions, the cans have been thrown across the room and even trodden on without being damaged. Although being made of paper the labels do stand the risk of being pulled off, I must say they are extremely well stuck down and it's very difficult to find a purchase to pull them off (as in I haven't managed it yet).
==Let's Go Shopping - A Child's View==
When Freddy opened these Christmas day he was a little non-plussed, well at twenty months he is only just starting to understand the concept of role play. Even so I put them in his shopping trolley and waited until he was ready to explore them, that wasn't too much longer. To begin with he just looked at them and put them in and out of the trolley, which he found easy as they really are the perfect size for his hands. After discovering that some of them had pictures of food on them, Freddy's emerging imagination went into overdrive and it didn't take long for him to start pretending to open the cans and start either eating the food or feeding it to Mummy and Daddy.
The next day when some of the excitement at all the new toys had worn off, I spent some time with Freddy using these and the trolley to play shops. The cans are stable enough to be stacked one on another on the table we use as our shop, and the varying sizes mean that we can build a pretty good display. The pictures on the labels are also clear enough for me to be able to describe what is in each can and whether it is nice for us to eat (beans) or yucky for us and nice for an animal (dog food).
If the last few days are anything to go by, Freddy really likes these cans of food, what with him regularly playing with them independently for short periods and frequently asking for me to play shop with him. When on his own he will either put them in the trolley while counting them (he's just learnt to count to three and is very proud of this skill using all sorts of things to practise including these cans) or pretending to eat the food and feed it to various soft toys (including dog food for his favourite cuddly, Woof). When we play together, he's slowly but steadily learning the names of the different foods and to pass me the correct can when I ask for it.
==At the Checkout - A development View==
The ELC state that these cans are suitable for children between the age of two and eight. Personally I think the lower age limit is almost right, there is nothing about the cans that will cause a choking hazard to younger children, but until they start developing role playing skills it's unlikely that younger children will really get the most from them. Although Freddy is younger than the minimum age, it's not by much and he does already have a rudimentary imagination that we have been encouraging over the last few months. As the cans look so realistic I would imagine that even children who have discovered the delights of more sophisticated "grown up" toys would still play with these, so as long as they still play shops then yes I would imagine an eight year old would appreciate them.
As with any toy from the ELC, these cans are packed with developmental benefits. From the very obvious, which is that they can help your child develop their imagination and understanding of the world around them, to the slightly more obscure counting skills and fine motor skills (as they stack the cans). By spending time playing shop with Freddy using these as props, I am helping him make sense of shopping, recognise different foods from pictures and improve his conversational skills.
==Back Through The Magic Doors - Final Words==
Although this set of play cans is somewhat more expensive than others on the market, it is extremely well made and suitable for younger children. The plastic the cans are made of is far tougher than other brands, which means that the cans don't easily squash. Although made of paper the labels are stuck on far better than cheaper play cans too, meaning it's less likely to be removed by inquisitive fingers. I do think that playing shops is an important aspect of any young child's life and that these cans are an ideal addition to this play. They are just the right size for the littlest hands and yet look realistic enough to be appreciated by older children. My only real gripe is that it would have been nice for some play fruit and vegetables to be added, but there are other sets available that we will be adding in the near future.
A great selection of play food groceries from M&S. The perfect play food items to purchase for aspiring food shoppers.Includes:1 x can of minestrone soup1 x can of Italian broth and pasta soup1 x can of mandarin segments2 x cans of baked beans2 x cans of sweet corn1 x can of organic peeled plum tomatoes2 x cans of tropical fruit salad2 x cans of tuna steak2 x cans of cat food2 x cans of organic dog food Age range: From 2 years.